The Star Library is Ready for Launch!

Deborah J. Rumsey
Ohio State University Math Stat Learning Center
and
Christopher Bilder
Oklahoma State University Dept. of Statistics

Newsletter for the Section on Statistical Education
Volume 7, Number 2 (Spring 2001)


The STAR Library is a new peer-reviewed Statistics Teaching And Resource Library on the WWW (web address: http://www.starlibrary.net). It was created to support and encourage statistics teachers in their efforts to include hands-on activities in their courses, and encourage those who have not yet tried using activities, to do so. The focus at this point is the introductory course(s) in undergraduate statistics, although in time, we may expand our focus. All activities on the STAR Library are freely available for use by anyone. They are categorized according to topics on a typical introductory statistics syllabus, and can be sorted by amount of time needed, whether the activity is in/out of class, and whether it requires a computer. Activities can be downloaded and edited for easy customization, and can be accompanied by a variety of technological supplements (e.g. digital photos, video demonstrations, spreadsheets and datasets).

Why was the STAR Library created? While most of us agree that incorporating activities in the classroom is important, there are many reasons why statistics teachers don't use them as often as they would like to. Some of the obstacles are logistic-how do we find high quality teaching activities? While each of us has a few really great ideas, there is little opportunity to share and exchange our ideas with others, resulting in an easily exhausted repertoire. Many commercial products are available such as workbooks and CD-Rom, but not everyone has the financial means to purchase these products. Even if we do, it is often hard to adapt the activities in these commercial products to our own situations, classes and teaching styles.

The STAR Library addresses these issues. Its mission is to promote and encourage active learning in statistics classrooms in a way that makes it easy for teachers to participate. The four main objectives of the STAR Library are to provide a collection of teaching activities for statistics that is 1) of high quality; 2) easy to access; 3) free of charge; and 4) easy to customize.

STAR takes advantage of the accessibility of the WWW, but also its wide range of available technologies. This allows authors to demonstrate their activity without the constraints of a regular print journal. Teachers not only read the activity, and about the activity, but can then can see digital photos, or video demonstrations of the activity actually being carried out in a classroom. With regards to video, the STAR Library has a Real server, which can stream Real video files. (The editors will work with authors who create videos in other formats.)

STAR Library also offers teachers a wide range of materials and information beyond a description of the activities themselves. For example, each activity has a "prototype". This prototype is a "ready to print" handout that can be given directly to students. If an educator prefers to edit the prototype before handing it out, a Word version of it can be downloaded. Any data, spreadsheets, JAVA applets, or computer programs provided by the activity's author are easily assessable and can be downloaded by the user. Attached to each activity is a message board that allows educators to discuss an activity. Topics for discussion can include comments on how the activity went in class, ideas for changes or additions to the activity, or suggestions from authors regarding how to use the activity. It is our hope that these features will increase teachers' confidence and comfort level with the activities and incorporate them into their classrooms more often.

STAR Library has an editorial board; each activity is refereed by at least two people for quality, purpose, clarity, and attention to the format. The peer-reviewed nature of STAR serves two purposes; first, it ensures the quality of the activities, but equally important, it provides a publication outlet for teachers that recognizes teaching scholarship. And because STAR focuses solely on activities rather than research, a high quality activity can be as short as 1-3 pages long. A quick turnaround in the electronic environment within which STAR operates is also helpful for authors. The STAR Library will not have "issues" like most journals. Instead, the STAR Library will publish activities as soon as they are accepted in order to provide a quick dissemination to educators.

Many statistics teachers (and perhaps many students) have come to think activities are fun to do, but that they don't really help move the class forward in terms of learning the concepts to be covered in class (in other words, they tend to take up too much time). A high quality activity should integrate the statistical concept in a way that makes class time productive; it should work with the teacher to help students learn, not work against them, competing for time. This really brings into play the importance of learning objectives and assessment regarding activities. The STAR Library pays great attention to quality and completeness of activities, both from a student and a teacher perspective. In addition to a "prototype" or student version of each activity, there is a teacher version of the activity, written as a brief paper, that maintains a certain structural format. Each teacher version includes an abstract, a clear objective, list of materials/time needed, a description of the activity, a paragraph on assessment, and teacher notes on what to expect when carrying out the activity in your classroom.

Another important feature of the STAR Library is what's New? The What's New? webpage lists the activities recently published in STAR Library. Educators can also sign up for monthly emails, which describe what's new so that they do not need to check the web page on their own. Other important features of STAR Library include the Tour, which gives a short tour of the website and help on how to use it. The Chat Room web page provides a forum for future scheduled chat sessions between educators, editors, and authors to discuss statistics education. All of these web pages are easily assessable from the STAR Library navigation bar.

The grand opening issue of the STAR Library is currently being posted on the STAR Library website. Some of the activities you will find there include: "Counting Eights: A First Activity in the Study and Interpretation of Probability"; "Does Practice Really Make Perfect?" which applies a matched pairs experiment to Frisbee and golf distances; "Random Rendezvous" which examines probability issues revolving around meeting a friend for a lunch appointment; "Simulating Size and Power using a 10-sided Die" which illustrates size and power issues through simulation; "Breaking the Code - A Graphical Exploration Using Bar Charts" which engages students in an encoding activity, and an experiment to compare the absorbency of two brands of paper towels ("Which Paper Towel is More Absorbent?").

This grand opening issue of STAR Library is just the beginning. To make it successful, we need more activities! We hope you will consider submitting one of your favorite activities for possible publication in the STAR Library for all of us to share. To view the author guidelines, simply go to the STAR Library website (http://www.starlibrary.net) and click on "Submit." Videos, digital photos and other supplements are encouraged but not required for publication. Authors retain copyright of their published articles; we only ask that you submit an original activity, and that you not submit an activity that has already received a copyright somewhere else without permission of the publisher.

The STAR Library has been made possible through grants and support from Duxbury Press, Oklahoma State University, and Kansas State University. The Editor of STAR Library is Deb Rumsey (rumsey@math.ohio-state.edu), and the Chief Associate Editor and Webmaster is Christopher Bilder (bilder@okstate.edu). If you would like further information about STAR Library, please feel free to contact either of us.

Contact Information:
Deborah J. Rumsey, Director
Mathematics and Statistics Learning Center
The Ohio State University
231 W. 18th Ave.
Columbus, OH 43210
Email: rumsey@math.ohio-state.edu
Phone: (614) 292-2506

Christopher R. Bilder
Department of Statistics
Oklahoma State University
301G Math Sciences Bldg.
Stillwater, OK 74078
Email: bilder@okstate.edu
Phone: (405) 744-5684
http://www.chrisbilder.com


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